In the regency of Tabanan is the wonder of the UNESCO heritage rice paddies of Jatiluwih. This place became so popular before Covid that a massive resort was planned. The UNESCO threatened to remove their heritage status, so thankfully, this idea was dropped.
This is one of my favourite places in Bali for its breathtaking beauty.
There are some small places in Jatiluwih if you want to stay the night, or you can go higher into the mountains and stay in Munduk. There is also a glamping place that looks delightful and has excellent reviews. Otherwise, this is a day trip from Ubud and even those staying in Canggu/Seminyak could do this in one day. The road is windy so get some ginger lollies and/or tablets from a pharmacy before your trip if, like me, you get nauseous on a trip longer than 30 minutes! Jatiluwih is about 1.5 hours from Ubud and at least 2 hours from Canggu.
Your driver will park in the main parking area, and you can do the full circuit walk from there. There is an entrance fee of R20,000 per person (this may have increased). Don't bother with the overpriced 'tour' — the main circuit is easy and navigable with the little mud map from the entrance booth. It's about 2 hours through the main area.
Jatiluwih actually means 'very beautiful' in Balinese. This is because Jatiluwih is indeed gorgeous. The verdant, undulating terraces are around 600 acres, with a backdrop of the Batukaru mountains. You will love the easy hike through the fields, marvelling at the use of 1000-year-old water irrigation techniques (known as Subak). Take note of the little bamboo locks and waterwheels that keep the water levels consistent across the paddies. On a very clear morning, you can even see Mount Agung over 70km away.
I recently did a bike tour with my sister which sounded like a good idea at the time. If you are super fit (or Dutch) you will love this amazing tour with the lovely Wayan from Easy Bali Cycling. With loads of scooter experience I breezed down the quite steep hills. I thought I was pretty fit but I mostly had to push my bike back up again! My sister cycles around the Gold Coast hinterland so she was fine on the uphill but nervous on the gravelly path going down. Next time I'll try the eBike tour! Easy Bikes gave us breakfast and carried our water, and the little warung we met at would be great for lunch. Don't forget sunscreen and a cover for your shoulders - the sun starts to bite from 10am.
Touring with Bali Easy Bikes (that's Agung in the distance on the right).
If you want lunch elsewhere after your hike/cycle, there is Warung Jatiluwih 259 which looks out over the terraces. The food is okay if a little pricey, and there is also simple accommodation. The other place with international food is Billy's terrace cafe. Again, great views of the rice paddies but the food is very, very mediocre and overpriced. Don't bother with this one. Both are fine for a cold drink and a rest after your walk. Warung Ada is a little further up, with a great view and very good local food at reasonable prices — try the babi guling (succulent roast pork).
Insider's tip: as for other day trips, leaving early is better to avoid heat and crowds, but cafes tend not to open until between 7:30 and 9am. If you are in a villa or a hotel that doesn't offer an early breakfast, order iced tea or coffee from senimans the night before your trip and leave them in the fridge (I suggest senimans because it comes in a useful screw-top bottle). When you leave Ubud, get your driver to stop at a pasar pagi (morning market) on the way and pick up some bantal as a breakfast snack. These are tasty little parcels of slightly sweet steamed rice with banana, wrapped in their own natural packaging. This will tide you over for the long walk around Jatiluwih until you can get somewhere for brunch.
Things to do on the way home
If you want to have a big day out, you can go to Munduk (amazing mountain drive) and Bedugal (famous lakeside temple and botanic gardens), but it's a long, windy trip, and a very big day for kids (and some older adults). If you have more time, leave the Munduk trip for another day. Jatiluwih is one of the jewels of Bali, so make this area a priority.
Yeh Hew Waterfall This is a very pretty and refreshing waterfall and wading pool only a few minutes drive from the Jatiluwih entrance, and recommended for a cool off after your cycle or hike. Its a very steep staircase down, but its not too difficult with a break or two on the way up. There are little rough changing cubicles, and the second pond down is the safest to dip into.
Desa Coklat Bali (Cau Chocolate Factory ): a fun little spot where you can wander through the organic farm, learn about chocolate making, have lunch or a snack and buy some local chocolate wholesale (chocolate is expensive in stores). The entrance fee is R35,000 per person (∼US$2.80). Sometimes, they have chocolate making workshops.
Margarana Memorial Park: another place few international tourists visit. This is a war memorial where you can learn more about the Indonesian struggle for independence. It's a pretty place to wander through with manicured gardens, statues and little exhibits.
Sangeh Monkey Forest: larger, cheaper and better than Ubud Monkey Forest, Sangeh has some pretty pathways for short hikes. Like everywhere with those simian kleptomaniacs, keep your phones, sunglass and wallets in the car or your bags, clutched tightly.
Pengempu Waterfall: a very lovely spot and great for photos; plenty of parking and an easy climb to the riverside and back. It's not very deep, but you could have a refreshing wade or paddle in the cool clean water. Sadly there is sometimes a bit of plastic rubbish left there by tourists.
Sioul Coffee n' Grill: my recommendation for lunch or early dinner on the way home. This place does excellent satays of all kinds and very good coffee.
Warung deal Desa: another similarly pretty spot. No good for coffee but the food is amazing and cheap in a lovely setting.